Etling delivers winning hit for Southmoreland in Class 3A softball win over Derry

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022 | 8:23 PM


Southmoreland softball players jumped up and stood on the team bench during Tuesday’s playoff opener at Norwin.

They were afraid to sit down because a small snake emerged from under the turf and slithered along the bench area before finally disappearing into the woods behind the dugout.

Scotties freshman Makayla Etling is not afraid of snakes — or pressure at-bats.

“I would have picked it up. It’s no big deal,” Etling said of the snake.

She picked up her team instead, delivering a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning as the fifth-seeded Scotties edged No. 12 Derry, 5-4, in a WPIAL Class 3A first-round game.

“I just said to myself, if it’s outside, wait on it,” Etling said of the 1-1 pitch she sent into right-center to score senior Tyson Martin and send the Scotties (11-3) into the Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 4 Ellwood City (11-3). “This feels great. This builds our confidence.”

Scotties coach Todd Bunner was confident with Etling up and the game — and season — on the line.

“In her first two games she started 0 for 5 with three looking Ks,” Bunner said. “We took her out for one game. She worked hard to get back, and she immediately made a difference after a rough start. Now she is our leading hitter (.500). She came up big for us.”

Like Etling’s season, the Scotties gained confidence as the game wore on.

Southmoreland trailed Derry, 4-3, after the Trojans (5-12) scored four times in the fourth. The big hit was a three-run double by freshman Sophia Doherty, who set a school record this season with eight home runs.

Doherty was walked intentionally in the sixth.

It looked like an upset was brewing as underdog Derry made its move. The Trojans won a playoff game for the first time last season and returned to the postseason fresh off a head-turning, 19-12 win over Class 5A Franklin Regional.

“You never want to look past anybody,” Bunner said of Derry. “You don’t just go by the eye test. Derry is a tough team. (Sophomore pitcher) Maizie Legge was herky-jerky, and she took her time. We adjusted to that one time through.”

Freshman Amelia Sobota then grounded out to second to push home the go-ahead run.

But Southmoreland stayed patient and tied it in the fifth when junior Brynn Charnesky ripped a run-scoring single with two outs. Martin led off the inning with a hit.

After the Scotties wasted a leadoff triple by freshman Riley Puckey in the sixth, sophomore pitcher Maddie Brown, who gave up only two hits, forced a 1-2-3 inning for Derry.

In the seventh, Martin and sophomore Amarah McCutchson drew walks to set the table for Etling.

“This is important for our confidence,” Bunner said. “We have three freshmen and nine sophomores. Our girls needed to experience that pressure. They needed to be in a situation like that.”

Brown struck out seven and walked four. The Trojans’ other hit was a single by junior Sarah Dettling.

“We don’t have a lot of experience pitching, so I commend Maizie and Rebecca (Huss),” Derry coach John DePalma said. “We want to keep getting better and keep our program moving forward. It’s good to compete like that, but you want to win. I don’t like losing games like that.”

The Scotties took a 3-0 lead in the third. Martin doubled off the fence to drive in the first run, and McCutcheon singled. Two errors followed, leading to the other runs.

Martin reached base four times and had two hits. Charnesky was 2 for 3.

“Southmoreland is a force to be reckoned with,” DePalma said.

Southmoreland lost to Ellwood City, 4-2, in last year’s semifinals.

“We’ll have something for Ellwood City,” Bunner said. “We’ve been thinking about that game for a while.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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